Sewickley Academy boys soccer aims to maintain winning standard under new coach

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Sunday, September 12, 2021 | 10:01 AM


Sewickley Academy experienced a productive season in boys soccer a year ago, advancing to the WPIAL semifinals and finishing 10-2-1 overall.

The Panthers, now led by first-year coach Alessandro Moreira, are looking to build off last year’s regular-season success.

“My expectations are to make the playoffs and try to win the WPIAL,” said the Brazilian native Moreira, who is assisted by Joey Saez. “I will say the entire team is very strong, defense to offense.”

Sewickley Academy has been a major force in boys soccer over the years.

The Panthers have not had a losing season since 2010, have won two PIAA and two WPIAL titles, were PIAA finalists five times, and finished first or second in section play all 10 years with six section crowns.

It’s a new era in 2021, as Moreira steps in for Nate Richter, SA’s field boss the past three seasons.

Moreira’s reputation and lifelong commitment to soccer precedes him.

He has established the renowned Moreira Brazilian Futsal and Soccer Academy, located in Aspinwall, since his arrival in Western Pennsylvania. His exceptional international soccer career is highlighted on the academy’s website.

Moreira moved to the Pittsburgh area several years ago after playing professional soccer in Costa Rica and Brazil for more than a decade.

He competed for Municipal Liberia and Asociacion Deportiva San Carlos, as well as several other Central and South American first division teams. Other teams he played for included Liberia, Goicoechea, Osa, Belen, San Carlos and Carmelita.

Moreira participated in 249 pro games in Costa Rica, and landed the league award for the best foreign player while with Goicoechea in 2002-03.

Given his exposure to the Brazilian level of soccer, Moreira is a consummate trainer with a heavy emphasis on the development of proper technical skill. The Panthers worked diligently on teamwork and team camaraderie in the preseason, as they looked to find ways to replace eight integral seniors from last year.

“We have been working a lot on finishing drills and positioning of players, how to create space with and without the ball,” Moreira said.

SA’s returning starters consist of senior defenders Josh Chico, William Vanella and Alex Marquis; senior midfielder Sean Donohue; junior midfielder Thomas Varghese; and junior forwards Michael DiSantis and Adin Zorn.

Chico, Vanella, Marquis and Donohue are the only seniors on the 2021 squad.

Chico is a four-year starter who also participates in basketball and lacrosse, and also enjoys fly fishing. He anchors a starting defensive unit that also includes Marquis, Vanella and freshman Andrew Colletti.

“We are looking forward to a great season,” Chico said. “We have a great team that is willing to work hard and put in what’s needed to win a WPIAL championship. Despite losing eight seniors, we plan to finish where we left off last year.

“This year’s team is tightly woven. We possess high levels of team chemistry and work very well together in the midfield. With the addition of juniors Lucas Medeonca and Hudson Colletti, our midfield is very strong.”

Along with DiSantis, Varghese and Zorn, the junior class is represented on the team by midfielders Garrett Smith, Dan Torres, Medeonca and Colletti, plus forward Alex Quigley.

Chico, Zorn and DiSantis are team captains this season.

The Panthers’ starting goalkeeper, Cooper Wentz, along with midfielders Jayden Garcha and Andrew Caridad, forward Jackson Quigley and defenseman Max Pelso, are sophomores.

Andrew Colletti is one of the program’s top freshman prospects.

The team’s early season starting lineup consists of Wentz (GK), Vanella (RB), Marquis (D), Chico (D), Smith (LB), Donohue (M), Mendonça (M), Hudson Colletti (M), Zorn (RW), DiSantis (F) and Varghese (F).

Over the past decade, and including a 4-1 win Sept. 7 against Beaver County Christian, Sewickley Academy has compiled a 160-46-24 overall record.

The Panthers were 8-1-1 in Section 1-A last fall, finishing slightly behind Our Lady of the Sacred Heart at 9-0-1.

SA blanked Chartiers-Houston, 3-0, and OLSH, 1-0, in the WPIAL playoffs before falling in overtime to defending PIAA runner-up Winchester Thurston, 2-1, in a highly competitive semifinal match.

In the section opener against Beaver County Christian, Zorn peppered in two goals for the Panthers and was complemented by Hudson Colletti and Vanella, both with a goal and an assist. Mendonca and Smith also were credited with an assist apiece.

Sewickley Academy is slated to play five of its first six games on the road before hosting OLSH on Sept. 23 in an important section showdown. SA went 1-1-1 against OLSH last season.

“We prepare ourselves to beat all the teams in our section,” Moreira said.

The Panthers are members of Section 1-A again in 2021, along with Beaver County Christian, Neshannock, OLSH, South Side and Riverside.

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